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Are We There Yet?: The Sweet Season is Upon Us

By Rebecca Dravis
iBerkshires Staff

 

Can warmth really be far behind?

That's how I ended last week's column. Now as I sit here on Thursday morning watching the snow fall and listen to the wind howl, I believe the answer to that is yes. Yes, warmth can really be far behind. Spring is never coming. We're all doomed.

OK, I got that out of my system. I'm not going to complain about the weather this week. Instead, I'm going to talk about something fun this time of year that is all about the changeover from winter to spring: the maple sugaring season.

So this morning as the snow was falling and the wind was howling (sorry, old habits of complaining about the weather die hard) my 8-year-old looked out at our grand maple tree in the backyard and said, "Can we make maple syrup this year?" My husband, who spent many years writing for a national publication called The Maple News (seriously), told her there were two problems with that. The first is that one maple tree would not produce enough sap to make a real amount of syrup. The second is that our maple tree is not a sugar maple.

Well, OK, then.

Noelle said she just wanted to see maple sugaring in action, which is pretty funny, considering that when my husband was writing for The Maple News she and I would tag along to maple sugar shacks all over the Northeast with him every March. But that was when she was in preschool, so maybe she truly has forgotten all of the mud and steam and whatnot.

Anyway, I told her she was in luck, and so is your family: This Saturday, March 15, is Maplefest in Williamstown. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Hopkins Memorial Forest will host a celebration to usher in the maple season. MapleFest participants will be able to visit a working sugar house; to observe the finishing and bottling of the final product; to assist in tree tapping and sap gathering; and to taste the homemade syrup on pancakes and “sugar on snow.” In addition, there will be demonstrations of old-time evaporating methods, going back to the pre-colonial era, and maple sugaring exhibits, videos, and more. 

The event is free and will be held regardless of the weather (yes!). Hopkins Forest, owned and operated by Williams College, is located at the junction of Bulkley Street and Northwest Hill Road in Williamstown.

Can't make it to MapleFest? Most maple producers don't mind visitors at other times; find a list of local sugar houses here: http://www.farmfresh.org/food/food.php?zip=01201&food=69. Just always call first to (a) make sure they will be there boiling and (b) get directions, because if there's one thing that I remember from all of our March maple visits it's that some sugar houses are in the middle of nowhere.

Or, next weekend, take a little drive north and visit some Vermont sugar houses during the state's open house weekend. Find the details here: http://vermontmaple.org/ai1ec_event/1642/?instance_id=.

But back to this weekend, on Saturday you can always bring the kids to Greylock Bowl in North Adams from 2 to 4 p.m. for a family fun day to benefit the Northern Berkshire YMCA. Then on Sunday, March 16, if you have horse lovers in your family, head to Pittsfield for what looks to be a fascinating talk on wild horses from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Berkshire Humane Society on Barker Road. Mary Koncel will discuss the history and current management practices of Bureau of Land Management wild horses in the western states. Weather permitting, a locally adopted wild horse will be available for a meet-and-greet between 2 and 2:30 p.m. Reservations aren’t necessary, but to save a spot and be eligible for a raffle at the presentation, call 413-447-7878, ext. 28, or visit www.berkshirehumane.org.

Stay warm.

 

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.

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